Christians in Bethlehem and the rest of the area commonly referred to as the Holy Land celebrate Christmas – but in a different way than we in the Western world tend to. Whether you’ve made a tradition of giving simple gifts like the ones we offer to your loved ones, or if this is your first time exploring our website, we think you’ll enjoy this peek into what Christmas is like in the land where Jesus was born.
Traditions and Travelers
During the Christmas season, pilgrims flock to Bethlehem, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous Grotto where a 14-pointed silver star decorates the floor at the very spot where Jesus is said to have been born.
Whether at Shepherd’s Fields, Manger Square, St. Catherine’s Church, or any other Bethlehem location, visitors are amazed by the warm welcome they receive and by the intense experience of spending Christmas in the land where Jesus was born, lived his life, and gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. Christians in Bethlehem see visitors all year round, but during the Christmas season, people from all around the world come to the place where the greatest miracle of all took place more than two thousand years ago.
What most impresses many is the lack of commercialism. While in Western society the concept of Christmas goes hand in hand with Santa Claus, loads of toys, and all kinds of fantastic things, in Bethlehem, Christmas is about remembering the birth of the savior – though celebrations and gift giving do take place, and though a few people do dress up as Santa Claus.
Up and down the streets, simple light displays are set up, and stages are erected for musical performances and Christmas plays. A Christmas bazaar offers goodies and local toys, along with some olivewood Christmas ornaments and other gifts much like the ones you’ll find on our site.
Three Christmas Eves are celebrated in the Holy Land. On the 24th of December, Roman Catholics and Protestants celebrate in one location, while Greek Orthodox, Coptic, and Syrian Christians celebrate at a second location on January 6th. At the third locale, on January 18th, Armenian Christians celebrate in their own way, but Jesus is the thread that binds them all together. After each of the church services has come to a close, everyone comes together to feast on turkey spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper, and stuffed with almonds, rice, and pine nuts.
All around, bells are ringing and Christmas Carols are being sung in many different languages; and everywhere, people are wishing one another a Happy Christmas and blessing one another. Local children walk through the streets taking in the sights, and the general feeling is one of contentment and joy.
Now that you know a bit more about the way people living in the Holy Land celebrate the birth of Christ, perhaps you feel more connected to them, as Christian brothers and sisters. By purchasing a few gifts made by Bethlehem artisans this year, you can help these people to continue to share their traditions with other Christians from around the world.